Cigarettes, Drugs and Booze

Vices. Let’s face the world is full of them, but weather to invest in them starts to shift pure investment decisions into the world of ethics.  After all do you really want to invest in a cigarette company whos product you know hurts people’s health?  If you are a none smoker, you might have a problem, but if you yourself smoke you might be fine with it.

I personally limit my vice investments to booze, Corby Distilleries (CDL.A or CDL.B), to be exact.  I know booze can be abused by some, but that has never bothered me.  My personal belief is there are a lot more people out there using it moderation that those that are abusing it.  The product in my mind isn’t the issue, but rather how people use it is.  Others may think I’m full of shit, but I’m ok with that.

On the other hand I will never own a cigarette manufacture.  I can’t justify supporting that industry with investment from me.  I don’t think any amount of their product is safe and I don’t think it’s ok to make money by hurting people directly.

Then drug manufactures start to hit a grey area.  It is right to make profit off people’s sickness or are you really helping them?  Was Viagra a force for good in this world, or just an over hyped drug which helped people ignore their other health issues like high stress levels?  It depends on your personal point of view.

Yet once you start down this path of thinking of things in terms of ethics, where do you drawn the line?  After all should you avoid investing in TransAlta due to their coal plants which contribute to climate change or are they just trying to provide power to people with what was near by?  Or is Walmart an evil company that abuses workers in many countries or a money making machine that provides goods at a low cost?  It depends on how you view the situation and the reality is there is no one right answer.

Ethics should guide your investment choices at some level, but I would caution getting too worried about it.  After all just about everyone has done something to someone which someone else would consider unethical on the surface.  It takes effort to look at the whole picture and decide for yourself what you can and can’t invest in.  Remember there isn’t a right answer, but there is an answer which works for you.

3 thoughts on “Cigarettes, Drugs and Booze”

  1. Good debate fodder – Your title should also include oil … Sudan oil that is. A couple of years ago I dumped a mutal fund (AGF China or something) that had major holdings in China Petrol, which is a the oil player in Sudan that has direct links to funding the genocide there. (If you’re in California, then Alberta Oilsands is another ethical decision.)

    Now the china fund had done about 100% for two years as oil was peaking. I ended up timing the market nicely as it’s since crashed as has most oil holdings. But at the time I needed to line my investments up with my personal values. I felt weird doing it cause I had made a tidy profit … perhaps I should have donated the profit to NGO’s doing work in Sudan.

    The next issue that folks keep talking about is coltan and links to the Congo where 4 million people have died over the last decade. Apparently you’ll find coltan in almost every cell phone. Anybody else know anything about the coltan / congo genocide issue?

  2. I’m with you on this one. I own CDL.A but would never invest in tobacco, and don’t know enough about pharmaceuticals to get into that.

    I’m also wary of tobacco for a more selfish reason, law suits, and the risk of losing money.

  3. Graham,

    Oh good one. Oil could be an entire post with ethics. I agree the oil sands are a bit of issue with their huge footprint and resource use.

    I hear about coltan and the Congo. It’s interesting how resources at high prices and corrupt governments seem to go hand in hand.


    Good point. Lawsuits are an issue beyond just the obvious health effects.


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